“In business as in life, you don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate.” – Chester Karress
I’ve been a bad negotiator my whole life, primarily because I’m terrible about thinking about what I need. In the last podcast, we talked about self-awareness, and that’s what we need to have to negotiate. We’re going to start a small series where we talk about tough conversations. To give you an example, on a previous job, I went into my boss’s office, and he was relatively new. And I said, why aren’t I getting promoted? What’s really stopping me from moving forward in this company? The conversation didn’t go very well. And at the end, he said, what is it that you’re actually looking for? Are you looking for a raise? Are you looking for additional responsibilities? Or are you just looking for recognition? To which I replied, “uhhhhhhh” Not a great way to start any kind of negotiation at all. And negotiations, while it sounds like a tricky thing or things that are only used at a particular time. Negotiations happen, actually, all the time, we’re trying to convince our customers to use our software. We’re trying to convince a spouse to go out for dinner tonight. I mean, there are all sorts of things that involve negotiations. We want to make sure that we put things in this proper framework, and not even so much that we win every time, but so that we present the suitable options to the right people, so the right decision can get made. That’s what’s important.
Today, we’re going to talk about a book that Asked For More: 10 Questions to Negotiate Anything by Alexandra Carter. And this book I found fascinating because it was a lot of questions, just as the title indicates, on how to get better negotiation done. So the first thing that she talks about when trying to figure out what it is that you exactly want is self-insight. Just like we talked about in the last podcast. What is it you really want? You know, if you sit there, and you immediately go into negotiations with someone, either at a customer meeting or at a car shop, you’re doing it all wrong. she says that you’re missing what works, just like when I walked into my boss’s office. That didn’t do any fact-finding that didn’t get the conversation beginning that was just jumping into the end process. And it didn’t really begin with, first of all, me discovering what it is I wanted. So then when I was asked, What do you want? I hadn’t the foggiest idea.
She says you need to mirror, and I think that means looking in the mirror, right? You want to get a fundamental aspect of what it is you’re trying to gain. So she said that the first step when you’re looking at any negotiation at all is, what problem do I want to solve? That’s where I screwed up my negotiation. Did I want to raise? Did I just want more money? No idea. So then she talks about trying to clearly define your problems. The first step you want to take is to take just a few minutes and write down the problem you’re trying to solve. Whatever it is that you’re trying to get out of this negotiation. Are you trying to buy a house? Are you trying to get the previous owners to fix something expensive? If you’re trying to buy a car? Are you trying to get a good deal on that car? Or if you’re trying to get a raise? What is it you’re looking for in that raise?
Then she says to take anything negative like I don’t get any recognition at work into something positive. I would love to get more recognition at work. I would love leadership to know I’m making a positive impact on this company. So if you turn that around, that’ll make it easier for you to negotiate because it’s not harmful. And she said the challenge is sometimes complex. We’re so focused on what it is we’re looking for tangible things, usually. You know, if it’s a promotion or raises its money, I want to see a different number. But when they’re intangible things, it’s tough to figure out what we’re looking for and why we need these items met? If you can look at those things for yourself, you’ll have more successful negotiations because you’ll have more details about what needs to change. She says some examples of what needs to change often in her experience with negotiations. Sometimes it’s just acceptance and needs to feel like you belong—social support, affection when it comes to relationships, feeling part of a group. Sometimes you have esteem needs, or you just want to have a sense of achievement. Sometimes people want to have more autonomy. They like to be able to decide what their days look like. They want to be able to determine what their trips look like. Sometimes people want to feel more secure. They want to know they’re liked in the company. That they’re going to be able to keep their job for a long time.
And so she said that if you’re struggling to figure out what you want or what problem you’re trying to solve. Think about something that you’re currently finding intolerable, and then just turn it around. So if you say, I’m simply ignored at work all the time, instead, again, that negative statement, you’re flipping it around and saying, I want to be recognized by leadership in the company that I’m making an impact. It’s the opposite of what your intolerable negative thought is. Then, she says that you should ask the worst, most unflattering thing I need in the situation? Because it fights fear, self-censorship, and guilt. Those are the things that really hold us back. If we think we’re not worthy, if we’re afraid, we’re going to lose our job. If we’re so scared we’re going to hear something horrible, it’s hard for us to fight it. Getting over asking that worst-case question can break us of that. So in the case, when I was asking my boss about a promotion, the problem was, was it money I wanted? Sure, money is always nice. Is it recognition? That’s always nice, too. But you know, what was really there, it was my fear that the company didn’t like me that no one in the company cared that I work there or not. And so maybe, if no one cared that I worked there, perhaps I’m going to just be let go at some point because they just don’t even watch that I’m there. That’s a severe core issue. By asking the most minor flattering thing about this situation, you can get down to the really horrible thing. If we can do those types of things. That’ll contact us to the core of what’s really going wrong and what it is we’re trying to negotiate for.
And then, once you’re done with yourself, you’re trying to look out the window, which means you’re trying to get a clear view of what the other person wants. Is your boss sitting around thinking, boy, I’d love to give Jill a raise. I think I’d love to give Jill a promotion. I wonder how I can make that happen. Chances are, they’re swamped. They’re thinking about their own work and their own situation, And they’re not sitting there thinking about you. When you get a clear view of that other person. That’s where it helps you to actually win your negotiations. Because if you don’t have insight into what they want and what they’re trying to get, it will make it hard for you. What is your boss want? They want a successful team. They want employees who are committed to doing the best job they can for the company. They want to bring out people who have exceptional talent and get them to their full potential. There are all sorts of things that bosses want. But if you don’t know what that is, you’re going to struggle with your own negotiations.
Some people feel really paranoid about this, you know, in the sense of they’re trying to figure out what their boss might want. Eventually, we’ll try to frame those things in how the boss wants to see them. Sometimes people think that sounds really cheesy. But knowledge is not cheesy. Meeting other people’s needs is not cheesy at all. It’s actually killing two birds with one stone. You get what you want, and they get what they want. That’s how this works.
She said that the definition of negotiation is to successfully travel along or over. And she loves this because when she thinks about negotiations, she thinks about it as sitting in a kayak and navigating a river. It’s constantly trying to achieve movement while avoiding obstacles. And what she says is that when you’re steering the kayak, you can’t close your eyes or not listen to what’s going on around you and expect to arrive at your destination. You need to watch the waves. Need to feel the wind. Everything that you see, or your sense will help you succeed in navigating the kayak. And the other part that she said about it is that when you’re seeing something ahead of you, that’s a crisis you plan in advance to avoid whatever it is. If there’s a steep drop off in the river ahead of you, you plan ahead to get to the other side of the river where the water going down is gentler—the same thing in negotiations. You don’t wait until there’s a crisis to start having negotiations or tough conversations with people. You start them early to start steering it in the right direction. She says it’s even better yet if you can be like Steve Jobs, who always could see problems before anyone else knew there was a problem.
So she suggests whenever she’s having a negotiation, she likes to make it a comfortable location. If she can do so. She brings drinks. She carries snacks, she also makes the commitment of time as firm as a doctor’s appointment. You don’t want to make this a terrible slog for anybody. You want to make this as positive as possible if you have the chance.
The next tip she gives is that we have to be able to write down the essential things. Make sure you take notes. She says taking notes is not just a sign of respect, but it helps us remember the key points that happened during this meeting, that if you don’t take notes, people assume You’re not listening. She suggests writing down your feelings writing down what you were thinking at the time. Note any of the main takeaways that were in the meeting. This will help you see what actually happened. Because what happens after you get over a stressful event is you start reflecting on it, and you start going back over it. And sometimes, what was actually said is not what your head is even bringing forward. Sometimes the meetings are very positive. Sometimes you just look at it as negative because you didn’t exactly get what you wanted. Notetaking will help you with that.
And then, the last tip she gives is to follow up. Writing a thank, you note. Sending them an email and asking them, is there anything else that you would like to know? Is there anything I can do to help? And give them permission to say something that maybe they didn’t previously feel comfortable saying. Write down a summary of the entire meeting, almost like you were telling it to your best friend. That way, you have a short summary of what happened.
And if you’re having a conversation, maybe the next step is coming up with a development plan when it comes to negotiations. If you have a landlord, and they’re not keeping up with the repairs on your apartment, and you’re trying to negotiate for things to get better. Obviously, the landlord cannot fix everything tomorrow, or your boss may not be able to fix everything tomorrow. So what you’re looking for is an action plan. Well, can we commit to improving one thing in this apartment every month? that may help you. Or if your boss says, look, to be quite honest, you’re not ready for that promotion yet. Okay, can we develop an action plan of things that I either need to learn how to do or that I need to actually accomplish Before I am ready for those kinds of things? Can we develop an action plan?
So there’s a fellow named Ed Brodow and, he’s a negotiation expert. And on his website, he had some pieces of advice for negotiating. And first of all, he says, Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. It’s really going to be a challenge to get anything that you want if you don’t ask for it. And he says, make sure that you put it in a non-threatening way. “you shouldn’t do that. Instead, try substituting with your feelings. I don’t feel comfortable when you do that.
He says, always be willing to walk away. Some negotiations, that’s really easy. You’re buying a new car. Walk away. I had a situation where I was negotiating for a car. The car had been sitting on the lot for two years. But it was a model that was no longer in production. And I really liked that car. So I wanted to go in and get the car. But they were trying to sell it to me as if it were the price of a brand-new car hot off the factory line. And so when I brought to him what the cost was and how much it lost in value by sitting on the lot for two years, I was looking for $2000 to $3,000 off the price of the car, said Well, let me go talk to my boss, his boss sat in that room. And I can tell by the way they were laughing. They weren’t talking about this comes back out. And he says, Okay, my boss thinks I can take $25 off the car’s price. I walked out, sometimes you can actually get what you’re looking for after you’ve walked away. So that’s it’s a successful way of negotiating. It shows that you’re not desperate, you have other options. Or you’re just going to go to those other options and forget this, that other negotiator will sense your inner strength when you walk out of a negotiation like that.
He says not to be in a hurry. We’re always trying to get something over with. by being patient in negotiation. If they’re in a hurry, but you’re calm and ready to spend the time it takes to do this, it will help you get to what you’re looking for. He also suggests aiming high expect the best possible outcome. He says successful negotiators are optimists. If you expect to get more, you will get more. I find this particularly hard. I always think that I should ask for what I’m actually trying to get. So if I was looking for a $10,000 raise, I walked in there and said, Well, I want a $20,000 raise. I’m afraid that that huge number will just scare off the other person to where they just say no.. He says that’s not true. People who aim higher do better. I hope he’s right on that. But that scares me quite a bit.
He says to focus on the other side’s pressure. If it’s your boss, they’re looking for a great employee who can do the things that need to get done in that company. If it’s that car person, they’re looking to make a sale because it’s three days from the end of the month, and they’re looking to meet their numbers. And so you’re always trying to focus on the pressures of the other side. And if you show them how their pressures will be relieved by this negotiation, either your boss getting precisely what they were looking for or those car salesmen Getting that sale, that will help you get to yes.
He says never to give away anything unless you’re getting something in return. So if you have a boss and you’re negotiating a promotion, and they say, Well, I tell you what, let’s just have you do those more demanding tasks, those long hours, and then we’ll see how you do. And if you do a great job, we’ll give you a promotion. Now you’re giving away something without getting anything. You may say something to the extent of, well, what if you gave me the promotion. If we decide this wasn’t successful at the end of a year, we’ll look at a different position within this company. That’s something else. He says not to take these issues or the other person’s behaviors. He has a book called The Negotiation Bootcamp and. His website will be in my show notes.
I would say watch out for things that can’t be undone. I’m entirely risk-averse. I never had these conversations because I’m worried about losing a friend. I’m concerned about losing a job. And so I never do it. I never had those conversations. But I don’t think it has to go that far. You just have to be careful about things that can’t be undone. And that might be saying something that does lose that other person or gets you fired, or loses you respect at your office. Whatever it is, you stormed out of there and said I quit. And then an hour later, you think, maybe I shouldn’t have done that.
There’s this concept of BATNA. And it stands as the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. You should always know your options and which ones will serve you best, even if you can’t get what you’re looking for. So one great advantage of that will give you confidence because you will know what you can fall back on If whatever it is you’re asking for is not possible. I have an article linked in the show notes from LinkedIn. And they say that BATNA usually includes things like finding another place to do business. Changing your requirements. Pausing what it is that you were planning on doing. Trying to create some other asset within your company that will get you what you’re looking for. You want to make sure that you have some backups in your mind that if you don’t get what you’re looking for, you get something that you still will meet your needs, fix the problem that you’re trying to solve, but maybe not in the way that you thought about it.
There are some tactics that negotiators like to use against people who are trying to negotiate something for themselves. And these tend to be associated with more shady negotiators. A good negotiator is looking at good faith for their organization, for their company, even in car sales, is not looking to undermine you. They’re looking to find a path forward. These include
- Bait and switch
- Patronizing the person
- Making a personal attack,
- Time pressure “Let’s just decide this now.”
- Bogus demands,
- Good cop, bad cop.
And how you fight against these techniques is, first of all, see it. And if you can see it, then it’s good to identify it. I know you’re trying to put time pressure on this because you’re trying to force me into a decision I have a month before I actually have to decide. I’m not making it today. or try to turn the tables on them. And that means taking their tactic, reversing it so that it’s on them.
So some other things to consider as you’re closing up your thoughts on negotiation. Remember that there probably be tactics used against you, not cruelly, not in a slimy way. But everybody has things that they do when they’re up in a negotiation. That might be tough questions. that might be standing firm. Sometimes people are just competitive. And as soon as they have a situation where they’re challenged, it causes them to go into chase mode, where they’re really trying to win as compared to maybe listening to what you’re doing. Your careful thoughts will help break those tactics down.
And then take the worst fears off the table. If that person is sitting over there thinking you will quit, maybe take that off the table. Or if you’re negotiating with your landlord, they’re thinking you’re going to leave. It’s a tactic to use that worst thing to force that other person into doing what you’re doing. But often, there’s a place for taking that off the table. If that’s not the ultimate result of this negotiation, it’s probably good to end that thought because it can be poison in the entire negotiation.
And then think about cooperation versus competition. Competition can be damaging when it comes to a negotiation, but cooperation makes it look like we’re working together to develop a solution. And remember that people aren’t thinking about you. But instead, they’re thinking about the issue. They’re thinking about how many positions they have. They think about who will take over this new team and do a great job with it. Because I don’t have time to deal with it. That’s not necessarily your thing. It’s an issue problem.
And an important thing is to make sure that you’re not up to talking during your questioning. Many people like to use that as a tactic because it sounds a bit like asking you a question? Or are you saying a statement, and when they don’t feel confident about saying a statement, mainly if it’s strong, they’ll up talk it. So there’s a new position in the company? And I might be good for it? That’s not a statement. And that’s not going to earn you respect. You’re not owning the idea. They’re not sure if you’re asking or you’re telling. It would be much better to be direct. I hear there’s a new position in the company, I would like to be that person. Here’s why.
- Look in the mirror and figure out what it is you want. What problems are you trying to solve? And if you can’t find the problem you’re trying to solve, try to find the worst-case scenario about why you’re asking for what you’re asking. Is there a deep, dark fear? Are you embarrassed because of a specific situation? Figure out what that serious problem is. As soon as you’ve identified issues, turn them around and make them positive.
- Look out the window and figure out what that other person needs. Find out what problems they’re trying to solve and see if there’s a middle ground where you can solve both issues simultaneously.
- Steer the kayak, make. Sure that you’re looking for hazards. You’re keeping your eyes open. You’re keeping your ears open. And you’re taking in all the information given to you during this meeting, whether it’s verbal or nonverbal cues. And then take notes and write a summary.
- Follow up. Make sure that whatever action items you walked away with, you will accomplish them perfectly.
- Consider a development action plan In case you don’t exactly get what you want.
- Make sure you have a BATNA, which is the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. What is it you’re willing to live with? Is there something else that will get you what you want for the most part?
- Try something small. Pick one tiny thing that you’ve been trying to negotiate with another person, maybe on a personal level, where there’s no real danger of losing something big, and try to negotiate it. Try to use these negotiation skills to come up with a small negotiation. The more you negotiate and start seeing successes, the more you’ll be ready for those big-ticket items like your customers, work, or life.
And now, our fun advice from entertainment comes from the movie, The Fifth Element, where we learn how Bruce Willis likes to negotiate.
“Korben Dallas: We need to find the leader. Mangalores don’t fight without their leaders.
Aknot: One more shot, and we start killing hostages!
Korben Dallas: That would be the leader.
Aknot: Send someone in to negotiate!
Ship’s officer: I never negotiated before.
Korben Dallas: You mind if I?
Ship’s officer: Uh yeah, sure.
Ship’s officer: We’re sending someone in to negotiate!
Korben Dallas: Anyone else want to negotiate?
Ship’s officer: Where did he learn to negotiate like that?”
Wow, that’s some negotiation skills he has there and we need to find ways of negotiating that are less direct.